Improved productivity: 5 things to focus on

Posted on 15 May 2013 by The Manufacturer

We’re in the business of helping manufacturers to improve their productivity - quickly, affordably, and reliably - writes Jeremy Harford, managing director, Mestec.

And what do we mean by ‘improving productivity’? Quite simply: doing more, with less. In short, input versus output.

Put like that, it’s not rocket science. But in our view, manufacturers often over-complicate their search for improved productivity, looking to such things as ERP systems for answers, instead of where the problem lies—on the factory floor.

Our belief is that by simply measuring input versus output—and doing so machine by machine, employee by employee, and batch by batch—manufacturers can gain those critical insights that will boost productivity.

(And by the way, I’m bound to say that if they do it using our rapidly-deployed factory-floor terminals, they will gain those insights cheaply and quickly as well.)

In short, they’ll know:

• Where their biggest wastes are
• What is the underlying causes of those wastes
• Why machine utilisation and people utilisation is so low
• How improvement activities should be prioritised
• Who is performing to standard and who isn’t

The problem? Getting hard, actionable data on actual times and output rates—and then figuring out just what that data is telling you. So, based on our extensive history of helping customers improve their productivity, here are five things to focus on.

1) Analysis and corrective actions have to be immediate. If you find out what went wrong last week, it’s too late to do anything about it. Find out today, instead.

2) ERP systems make lousy factory-floor data collection tools. Paper and spreadsheets work fine but are burdensome —while factory floor terminals provide faster analyses. But any data is better than no data, and if you’re not collecting it, you can’t start.

3) We’re huge fans of lean. But you can’t prioritise every improvement action, all at once. Knowing what to prioritise is a huge plus. Spot the low-hanging fruit—and grab them first.

4) Accountants view improved productivity as a reduction in direct costs. They’re right, but also wrong. The real benefit of improved productivity is the new machines that you don’t have to buy, and the extra people that you don’t have to employ. At Mestec, we call it “unlocking the hidden factory”.

5) Why do output rates vary from person to person, shift to shift, and team to team? Find out with Overall Labour Effectiveness (OLE)—a measure that calculates for people what Overall Equipment Effectiveness calculates for production machinery.

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